Facebook seems to be testing a new feature that could give it more granular data of people's profiles and strengthen bonds within its social graph. Facebook has started showing users a "needs review" notification for information that others add in your profile. For instance, say you want to add a colleague from a past or current job, the person gets a notification that says that there is information that you need to review.
In terms of employment, this brings Facebook much closer to LinkedIn's style of strengthening connections along its social graph. LinkedIn makes it very clear that you must have a connection with the other person and the connection must be approved by both people before the link is completed. In this way, Facebook can make stronger ties in the vast web of its social graph.
Prompting Users To Strengthen Ties
What Facebook really wants to do is hone in on the most granular connections it can make amongst its users. Think of it as a wheel with spokes. A particular user is the center of the wheel. The spokes coming off the center are the strongest connections that person has in their social graph. That could be a significant other, work connections, family, close friends you associate with frequently etc.
Facebook can then work off this map they have created of your life. Ostensibly, this would be for the means of advertising and targeting. For instance, if Facebook knows where you work and the people that work there with you, it can more efficiently target ads or services (like games or apps) that are likely to be of interest. For instance, Richard and I work for ReadWriteWeb (well, I work for Richard at ReadWriteWeb). Facebook knows that RWW is in its tech/media categories. Ad buyers looking at Facebook's platform could theoretically buy a block of advertising that is targeted at people who specifically work in tech media. The stronger the ties that Facebook makes in users' social graphs, the more of a premium it can put on targeted advertising. Or push users to a particular service that is beneficial to Facebook such as generating more data or purchasing a product.
Consolidating The Social Graph
Under Facebook's older versions of its social graph, this particular data was not readily aggregated. Yet, by getting one person to confirm the connection, the work on Facebook's side is eased tremendously. The users are strengthening the connections themselves as opposed to Facebook having to extrapolate from their own data that two people may be connected in one fashion or another.
Where LinkedIn works so well is that it is in the particular market of employment. It can hone its data in on certain professions or verticals through information the users provide themselves. This is a step by Facebook in that direction.
This is all a function of the new subscribe button and smart lists features. What happened in this particular instance is that I added Richard to my ReadWriteWeb smart list that Facebook automatically generated for me. Under the hood, Facebook must have extrapolated that both Richard and I list RWW under our employment. It then automatically sent a message to Richard to confirm what its own data was telling it.
Facebook's power is its wealth of data within the social graph. In recent weeks we have seen Facebook begin to consolidate that power by adding context to much of its data. It is doing this automatically on its side by making connections between users (smart lists) and now it is having users themselves create the strong connections ("needs review" and the subscribe button).
Have you seen the "needs review" notification pop up in your Facebook profile yet? Is the strengthening of ties in your social graph beneficial to you as a user? Or has Facebook become too clever for its own good?